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Fig  Caprif ication 

The  Setting  of  the  Fruit 



SB    71 

'/SJ/H/E/&  .-• 




The  Setting  of  the  Fruit 


B.    M.    LELONG, 

Secretary  of  the  State  Board  of  Horticulture,  and  ex-officio  Chief 
Horticultural  Officer. 

(1)  One  of  the  fruits  of  the  fig. 

(2)  One  of  the  pistillate  flowers. 

(3)  One  of  the  staminate  flowers. 

(4)  Seed  with  embryo ;  all  enlarged. 

A  paper  read  before  the  Fifteenth  State  Fruit  Growers 
dm  vent  ion,  convened  at  Marysville,   Cal., 
\ #< <ember  ijth  to  2oth, 
1891.  , 



11  Thus  we  see  that  the  flowers,  which  we  vainly  tbiiik  are  " ;  V;  ; 

' — born  to  blush  unseen, 
And  waste  tbeir  fragrance  on  the  desert  air,' 

though  unvisited  by  the  lord  of  creation,  who  boasts  that  they  were 
made  for  him,  have  nevertheless  myriads  of  insect  visitants  and 
admirers,  which,  though  they  pilfer  their  sweets,  contribute  to  their 

The  question  of  fig  caprification  has  been  the  all-absorbing 
topic  of  the  day  among  the  fig-growers  in  this  State,  and  especi- 
ally since  the  introduction  of  the  fig  wasp,  Blastophaga  psenes 
from  Asia  Minor,  by  means  of  which  insect  it  was  hoped  that 
the  fertilization  of  the  Smyrna  fig  could  be  successfully  accom- 

I  listened  with  much  interest  to  the  lecture  on  the  Blastopbaga 
by  Gustav  Eisen,  before  the  Academy  of  Sciences,  at  San  Fran- 
cisco, August  3,  1-891,  and  expressed  the  fondest  hopes  of  it 
demonstrating  that  caprification  is  an  absolute  necessity.  I 
procured  various  specimens  of  Smyrna  figs  from  early  spring  to 
late  fall,  and  carefully  examined  the  eye  or  blossom  end  and 
could  find  no  opening,  nor  even  a  possibility  for  any  insect  to 
enter  the  fig.  I  so  reported  what  my  conclusions  were  at  that 
time,  and  further  stated  that  while  these  investigations  were 
still  in  progress  I  did  not  wish  to  speak  dogmatically;  but  I  had 
so  far  found  what  seemed  to  me  evidence  that  in  some  cases,  at 
least  of  the  Smyrna  fig,  the  fruit  was  found  to  have  gone  beyond 
the  point  of  fertilization  of  the  interior  inflorescence  before 
there  was  any  opening  whatever  in  the  eye  or  blossom  end  of 
the  fig.  Even  in  figs  quite  small  1  found  the  seed  formation  so 
far  progressed  that  the  seed  had  a  well-defined  shell,  and  at  that 
time  I  believe  the  time  for  fertilization  had  passed.  Mr.  Shihn 
disputed  some  specimens  I  exhibited  as  not  being  the  Smyrna, 
and  brought  me  several  of  his  Smyrna  or  so-called  Bulletin  figs. 
I  carefully  examined  them  and  also  compared  them  with  the 

specimens  I  had  procured  from  different  places,  and  called  Mr. 
Shinn's  attention  to  the  fact  of  their  being  much  closer  or 
tighter  at  the  blossom  end  than  mine.  Mr.  Shinn  could  not 
account  for  this  and  said  in  reply,  jokingly,  "  the  insect  will  get 
in  ;  they  know  their  business." 

The  following  I  quote  from  my  own  report  of  the  year  1889? 
'**•  {j&a8e,  '«k3f>:«fa>"§l*ow  the  stand  I  have  taken  on  the  question  ;  and 
jr^y  con elusions  *aie  not  theories,  but  are  based  upon  the  reports 
'/-.*  •'Suffd'invfefitigatte'n's  of  modern  scientific  writers,  viz.: 

"  In  the  fig  the  organs  of  fructification  are  hidden  from  view: 
therefore  we  cannot  tell  exactly  when  fertilization  is  effected  ; 
but  it  is  supposed  that  it  takes  place  when  the  eye  assumes  a 
pinkish  hue  and  expands  and  admits  a  little  air  into  the  interior, 
where  the  flowers  are. 

"  In  many  parts  of  Italy  and  the  south  of  Europe,  in  olden 
times,  cultivators  paid  much  attention  to  setting  the  figs  by  the 
method  of  caprification.  This  practice  was  much  believed  in, 
but  is  condemned  by  most  modern  scientific  writers  as  absurd. 

"Caprification,  according  to  the  experience  of  practical 
growers,  is  altogether  a  delusion;  and  many  of  the  largest  planta- 
tions of  the  old  world  have  continued  to  bear  fruit  without  the 
aid  of  the  Capri  fig. 

"  Professor  Gasparinrii,  a  learned  botanist,  carried  on  very 
extended  experiments,  covering  a  period  of  six  years,  and  in  an 
essay  written  for  the  Royal  Academy  of  Sciences  of  Naples 
detailed  the  number  of  experiments  which  he  had  made  and 
repeated  in  different  years.  Their  results  lead  to  the  conclusion 
that  caprification  is  useless  for  the  setting  and  ripening  of  the 
fruit,  and  that  instead  of  making  the  figs  remain  on  the  tree  it 
either  causes  or  facilitates  their  fall,  especially  when  the  insect 
had  penetrated  into  the  inside  and  produced  decay  by  its  own 
death.  When  the  insect  ever  entered  a  fig,  the  maturity  of  it 
was  hastened  as  apples  and  pears  are  when  attacked  by  a  grub. 
Professor  Gasparinni  recommended  the  abolishment  of  the  prac- 
tice, as  it  only  entails  expense  and  deteriorates  the  flavor  of  the 

"  In  the  islands  of  the  Archipelago  the  practice  has  been 
abandoned,  according  to  the  French  naturalist  Oliver,  but  in 
which  islands  excellent  figs  are  produced. 

"  The  process,  stripped  of  all  its  mystification,  is  a  simple  one, 

which,  as  stated  before,  has  proved  a  delusion,  and  is  only 
alluded  to  here  as  such.  In  the  first  place,  there  is  a  wild  spe- 
cies of  fig,  called  Capri  fig,  on  which  it  is  said  a  certain  insect 
exists,  which  enters  the  fruit  when  in  a  youg  state,  at  the  eye, 
thereby  facilitating  the  entrance  of  light  and  air,  or  some  fer- 
tilizing vapor  whereby  the  flowers  are  enabled  to  set  and  ripen. 
In  fig  plantations  numbers  of  this  wild  species  are  planted  for 
the  sole  purpose  of  bearing  these  insects  ;  and  at  the  proper  sea- 
son the  fruits  with  the  insects  are  carried  and  deposited  on  the 
fruit  or  shoots  of  the  domestic  species. 

"  Without  all  this  maneuvering  it  is  faithfully  believed  that 
very  scanty  crops  of  figs  would  be  secured;  but,  according  to  the 
investigations  of  modern  science,  it  is  proved  to  be  not  only 
unnecessary  but  positively  injurious." 

I  am  by  no  means  a  disbeliever  of  the  process  ;  but  for  the 
time  being,  and  until  the  merits  of  the  Blastophaga  are  proven 
beyond  a  doubt,  I  shall  weigh  with  much  consideration  the  con- 
clusions of  the  authorities  I  have  quoted,  and  further,  because 
I  have  but  recently  made  a  very  important  discovery  which  gives 
me  new  grounds  for  such  a  belief,  which  I  will  explain  further, 


(Cynips  psenes,  Linn.) 

Male— Magnified. 


Female.  Average  length  .08  of  an  inch.  Wing  expanse  about 
.11  of  an  inch.  Color  light  brown.  Antennae  clavate,  ten- 
jointed,  covered  with  fine  hairs.  Head  sub-globose.  Eyes  very 

large  and  prominent,  of  a  dark  color.  Thorax  long.  Abdomen 
elongate  acute,  terminating  in  a  long,  .hairy  ovipositor,  three 
times  the  length  of  the  body,  two-thirds  of  the  terminal  por- 
tion of  which  is  divided  into  three  parts.  On  the  under  side 
of  the  abdomen  is  a  process.  Wings  transparent,  pubescent, 
with  long  marginal  hairs.  The  stigma  of  the  anterior  wing  at 
right  angle  from  marginal  costa.  The  legs  are  of  the  same  color 
as  body  and  covered  with  stout  hairs.  The  tibia  of  the  front 
legs  is  stouter  than  that  of  the  second  pair.  The  posterior  legs 
are  much  stouter  and  longer  than  the  others. 

Male.  Length  about  .07  of  an  inch.  Wing  expanse  about 
.11  of  an  inch.  Color  black.  Antenna?  clavate,  eleven-jointed, 
hairy.  The  scape  is  much  larger  than  that  of  the  female.  Head 
same  as  female.  Eyes  dark  and  prominent.  Thorax  about  as 
long  as  abdomen.  Abdomen  obtuse  with  a  short  curved  stylus. 
Wings  and  legs  same  as  those  of  female. 


The  credit  of  the  introduction  of  this  insect  into  the  State 
belongs  solely  -to  Mr.  James  Shinn,  of  Niles.  The  fig-growers 
of  this  State  were  and  had  been  anxious  to  have  the  insect  intro- 
duced so  that  its  merits  pro  and  con  might  be  established.  To 
this  end  the  entomologist  of  the  Deparment  of  Agriculture  was 
asked  to  procure  the  insect  from  Smyrna,  as  the  facilities  of 
Government  officials  in  such  matters  are  well  known.  In  the 
June  number  of  Insect  Life  he  says  that  efforts  would  be  made 
to  introduce  the  insect  into  our  State  ;  but  as  to  what  efforts 
were  made  nothing  has  been  heard.  I  should  not  be  surprised 
in  the  least  if  in  a  coming  number  of  some  publication  he 
broaches  the  claim  that  the  credit  of  introduction  belongs 
to  him,  as  scarcely  a  bug  has  been  introduced  or  discovered  to 
which  he  has  not  claimed  first  credit  ;  and,  as  one  of  our  Con- 
gressmen expressed  it  to  the  members  of  our  Board,  "He  not 
only  wanted  to  make  me  believe  that  he  discovered  the  bug,  but 
had  also  produced  it."  "  What  egotism  !  how  selfish,  oh  man!" 

As  to  the  history  of  the  introduction  of  the  Blastophaga  and 
how  it  came  about,  I  cannot  do  better  than  give  Mr.  Shinn's 
own  statement,  viz.  : 

Mr.  Shinn:  "We  wrote  to  some  friends  that  were  known  to  us 
in  Smyrna  ;  or  rather  some  missionaries  were  stopping  at  my 

house,  and  seeing  that  my  figs  did  not  bear  and  that  I  was  get- 
ting uneasy  about  it,  one  of  the  ladies,  my  wife's  sister,  said  she 
knew  a  lady  from  Syracuse,  N.  Y.,  who  was  then  in  Smyrna, 
and  if  she  would  write  to  her  she  would  fix  up  a  few  of  the  fig 
cuttings  and  send  them.  The  lady  sent  for  them,  and  instead  of 
sending  a  half  dozen  cuttings  sent  a  whole  box  of  cuttings,  on 
which  I  paid  about  $100.  After  I  received  this  box  here  comes 
another  little  box  and  a  letter  saying,  '  The  figs  must  be  capri- 
fied,  if  not  you  will  get  no  figs.  I  sent  you  a  little  box  of  figs 
that  are  full  of  the  Blastophaga,  and  hope  you  can  do  well  with 
them.'  The  moment  we  got  them  my  son  went  out  to  the  Capri 
fig  tree,  opened  the  box  and  set  it  out  there.  Some  of  the  in- 
sects were  dead  and  some  were  alive.  I  saw  Mr.  Eisen  the  next 
day  and  told  him  about  the  Blastophaga  and  the  figs.  He  and 
Mr.  Masliii  came  to  my  place  the  Sunday  following,  July  26th. 
We  examined  and  found  some  live  insects,  but  most  of  them 
were  dead.  The  Smyrna  figs  that  were  caprified,  that  is,  that 
had  the  pollen  put  in  artificially,  came  to  perfection,  but  no 
others  did.  Two  crops  have  all  gone  to  the  ground  and  are  now 
on  the  ground,  except  about  ten  figs.  The  pollen  that  was  in- 
jected into  the  figs  was  from  the  Capri  figs  grown  on  my  place 
at  Niles.  There  are  two  varieties  of  the  Smyrna  fig.  One  has 
a  three-lobed  leaf,  and  the  figs  small  and  elongated.  The  other 
is  a  five-lobed  leaf,  and  the  figs  are  flat  and  roundish." 


Mr.  Shinn  then  exhibited  three  figs  which  were  caprified  by 
means  of  a  quill  toothpick,* — two  roundish  and  one  elongated. 
In  answer  to  a  question  as  to  the  opening  of  the  figs  at  the  time 
they  were  fertilized,  Mr.  Shinn  could  not  remember,  but  said  : 
li  The  insect  knows  how  to  get  in  if  it  must  ;  that  is  a  provision 
of  nature.  Only  the  figs  that  were  caprified  have  come  to  per- 
fection :  the  others  all  dropped  off." 

Question  :  Were  those  figs  caprified  by  the  insect  or  arti- 
ficially ? 

Mr.  Shinn:     Artificially. 

Question  :  Then  there  is  110  fig  that  has  come  to  maturity 
known  to  have  been  caprified  by  the  insect  ? 

Mr.  Shinn  :     None  at  all. 

*  This  operation  was  first  conceived  of  by  Geo.  C.  Roeding,  of  Fresno,  and  tlm*  matured  Smyrna 
figs  in  1890,  and  also  in  1891. 

Mr.  Maslin,  who  was  present,  was  requested  to  state  his  views 
and  observations,  which  he  did  as  follows  : 

Mr.  Maslin :  On  the  26th  of  July  I  went  over  with  Mr. 
Eisen,  at  his  invitation,  to  examine  the  Blastophaga.  We  met 
Mr.  Shinn's  son,  who  pointed  out  to  us  a  fig  tree  which  he  said 
was  a  Capri  fig,  and  one  of  the  importation  made  by  the 
S.  F.  Bulletin  Company.  The  others  in  the  rows  belonged  to 
the  edible  fig.  We  found  in  the  boughs  of  that  Capri  fig  tree 
the  box  containing  the  Capri  figs  imported  by  Mr.  Shinn,  with 
quite  a  large  number  of  dead  Blastophaga.  Mr.  Eisen  cut  open  the 

Figs  grown  and  exhibited  by  Mr.  Shinn. 
(1)  The  large  Smyrna,  flesh  amber  color.     ('2)  The  small  Smyrna,  flesh  dark  red. 

dried  Capri  figs  and  found  them  literally  black  with  the  insects, 
which  began  to  move,  but  very  sluggishly.  The  size  of  the  in- 
sect is  about  one  line,  one-twelfth  of  an  inch.  We  then  took 
some  of  those  insects  and  scattered  them  at  the  so-called  blos- 
som end  of  some  of  the  Capri  figs  and  some  of  the  figs  known  as 
the  Bulletin's  importation.  Mr.  Eisen  then  proceeded  to  fertil- 
ize some  of  the  figs.  We  found  that  the  fallen  Capri  figs  from 
the  growing  tree  on  the  ground  were  full  of  pollen  ;  cutting 
them  open  Mr.  Eisen  dusted  the  pollen  about  the  open  end  of 

various  figs.    I  suggested  to  him  that  we  should  insert  the  pollen 
by  means  of  a  toothpick.     I    picked  up    a  .fig   and    dusted  the 

§    § 

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a      s 



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01  °° 


pollen  into  my  hand,  filling  the  toothpick  with  the  pollen;  and 
he  inserted  the  toothpick  into  several  figs.     We  pollenated  sev- 

eral  figs  with  the  pollen  of  the  Capri  fig,  then  went  round  at  the 
end  of  the  row  and  proceeded  down  toward  the  south  and  pollen- 
ated  probably  twenty  figs  in  several  places,  selecting  such  figs  as 
showed  growth.  We  then  tied  a  string  at  each  place  below  the 
fig  that  was  pollenated,  so  as  to  find  them  afterward. 

Question  :  Mr.  Eisen  claims  to  have  inserted  a  quill  into  an 
edible  fig,  and  when  he  withdrew  it  that  there  were  Blastophaga 
at  the  end  of  the  quill.  He  so  stated  in  his  lecture  on  the  Blas- 

Mr.  Maslin — I  recollect  that  on  a  tree  next  to  the  Capri  fig 
there  was  a  Blastophaga  ;  but  I  doubt  the  correctness  of  the  state- 
ment, because  we  were  not  looking  for  any  insect  in  the  fig, 
and  you  don't  generally  find  something  you  are  not  looking  for. 
We  were  not  looking  for  insects. 

Question  :  How  large  were  the  figs  you  operated  on  ? 

Mr.  Maslin — About  1£  inches  long  and  li  inches  thick. 

Question  :  How  were  the  openings  of  the  figs  at  that  time  ? 

Mr.  Maslin — To  the  eye  they  were  not  open.  Closed  as  tight 
as  tight  could  be. 

Question  :  In  your  opinion,  was  it  possible  for  an  insect  to 
get  in  ? 

Mr.  Maslin — That  I  could  not  say  ;  but  I  was  particular, 
because  I  am  interested  in  that  question.  I  particularly  looked 
to  see  if  I  could  find  a  fig  where  the  insect  wa's  in  ;  but  I  declare 
I  never  saw  a  fig  where  it  seemed  possible  for  an  insect  to  enter; 
and  when  I  took  a  bottle  of  these  Blastophaga  to  my  ranch,  and 
went  over  the  ten  acres,  I  found  only  two  figs  with  a  hole  big 
enough  to  put  an  insect  in,  and  I  put  the  insects  into  these,  but 
the  figs  have  fallen  off. 

Question  :   Was   the   pollen  used  taken  from  California-grown 
figs  or  from  the  imported  ? 
*  Mr.  Maslin — From  Capri  figs  grown  by  Mr.  Shinn. 

Mr.  Maslin  [Continuing.] — I  have  ten  acres  of  Smyrna  seed- 
lings. I  sowed  the  seed  in  1885  and  1886.  The  first  crop  this 
year  the  fruit  on  the  limbs  was  very  thick,  as  on  plum  and 
prune.  The  figs  this  year  of  that  crop  on  the  trees  that  were 
grown  from  seed  are  big,  but  had  no  saccharine  matter  in  them 
and  dried  right  up.  About  two  weeks  ago  I  found  two  dozen 
little  figs  on  currant  wood,  being  so-called  second  crop.  They 
were  of  a  lovely  cream,  ivory  color.  The  meat  was  amber  color 

and  very  sweet,  but  not   filling  the   receptacle.    It  only  showed 
that  there  was  some  saccharine  principle  being  developed. 


The  ground  for  argument  by  those  who  believe  in  caprifica- 
tion  has  been  that  no  fertile  seeds  had  been  found  in  any  Cali- 
fornia-grown fig.  Also,  that  all  figs,  and  especially  the  Smyrna, 
only  contain  female  flowers  ;  and  the  fact  of  fruit  of  trees 
imported  from  Smyrna  not  coming  to  perfection  gave  them 
stronger  grounds  for  such  belief,  that  is,  the  pollen  of  the  male 
or  Capri  fig  had  to  come  in  contact  with  the  flowers  of  the  female 
fig  to  produce  fruit.  Also  that  the  reason  of  not  having  found 
kernels  in  the  seeds  of  California-grown  figs  was  attributed  to 
the  lack  of  the  pollen  fertilization. 

California-grown  figs  with  fertile  seeds. 

(1)  Specimen  showing  mature  fruits. 

(2)  Specimen  showing  how  the  fruits  lay  in  the  receptacle;  the  male  flowers  are  towards 
the  blossom  end. 

On  October  20,  1891,  while  visiting  an  orchard  at  Los  Gatos, 
I  came  across  a  tree  which  attracted  my  attention  by  reason  of 
it  being  of  peculiar  foilage  ;  and  upon  cutting  the  fruit  I  found 
that  it  possessed  both  pistillate  (the  female  organ  of  a  phamo- 
gam,  consisting  of  the  ovary  with  its  stylus  and  stigma)  and 
staminate  (the  pollen-bearing  organ  of  the  flower,  consisting  of 

—  10- 

an  anther  usually  supported  upon  a  stalk  or  filament)  flowe,  , 
which  were  so  grouped  that  the  pollen  from  one  was  freely  con- 
;eyed  to  the  other*  Thus  fertilized  the  female  blossom,  .had 
developed  into  hundreds  of  perfect  seeds  with  -we! 

kTht'is  the  first  time  that  fruit   of  this  character   has   been 
found  in  this  State,  that  is,  containing  both  pistillate  and  stam- 
nate  flowers,  and  the  seeds  perfect  kernels.     One  of  the  spec, 
mens  cut  in  the  presence  of  E.  W.  Mashn,  Secretary  *«***£ 
of  Trade    and   G.  F.  Weeks,  Agricultural  Editor  of 
ChroMe  was  full  of  pollen  ;  in  fact,  the   pollen  was  so  abun- 
£S£*  gave  the  center  of  the  fig    a   yellow   appearance. 
Unfortunately  the  figs  were  not  fully  matured    so  there  was  no 
Opportunity  to  test  their  quality.     On  cutting  them  open  they 
were  of  a  decidedly   purple   hue  near  the  j*^-*^ 
bright  red  and  to  deep  red  in  riper  specnnens.        ardly  any     ed 
coloration   was  visible  in   greener  specimens    th  e  entire  fl  esh 
A»c  ,   nnrnle      The  fig   is  of  elongated   shape,    ratliei 
3    LdTeseTbt  the  elongated  fig    grown  by  Mr   Shinn 
both  in  shape  and  color  of  flesh.    It  has  a  leaf  resembling  the 

prepared,  Mr.  Maslin  brought  to  my  office 
(November  9),   several  seedling  Smyrna  figs  grown  by  Inmn 
Pl,cer  county      The  specimens  were  small,  of    a  bright 
Irandle  fruits  in  the  receptacle  well   developed  and  npe. 
Upon  examination  they  were  found  to  contain  numerous  male 
flow  rs  and  considerate  pollen.     We  have  here  two  cone  usrve 
facls  showing  that  the  insect  is  not  altogether  essential  for  t 

'IS  t  ^^^  people,  step  by  step,  have 
nrav  1  dnLyof  the  most  difficult  problems;  so  let  us  hope 
Zt  ±dom  and  ingenuity  wSl  in  the  near  future  solve  this 
interesting  question. 

serious  thin,,  and  the  n.ost  .UffieuH  natter  in  thewo,-!,.  to  .taenuine." 



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FEB101975  39 

LD21 — A-40m-12,'74 

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